Mahmoud Thiam. Seven Years in Prison

Former Minister of Mines Mahmoud Thiam once famously said that “every crook on Earth” lands in Conakry.

Read (a) Conakry : plaque-tournante de l’Escroquerie internationale (b) Guinea Mining. Exploiting a State on the Brink of Failure

It turns out he was, himself, a big-time offender in the plundering of the country’s meager finances. Mahmoud belongs in the category of high level of corrupt officials: presidents, government ministers, administrations’ civil servants, who have ruined Guinea: from Sékou Touré to Alpha Condé, and everyone in between, i.e., Lansana Conté, Moussa Dadis Camara, Sékouba Konaté. Therefore, Mr. Thiam’s assessment couldn’t be more accurate. He knew where the bodies were buried!
In 2009 he left a job position at a New York City bank to answer the siren calls of the military junta of Dadis Camara. In Conakry he was appointed Minister of Mines… A year later, the newly “elected” president Alpha Condé decided not to keep Mr. Thiam in the  government. Soon after Mahmoud came back here to the USA… However, during his short tenure he had collected millions of dollars in bribery. He thought he had fooled everybody and that he had succeeded in stealing so much money from the Guinean people. Little did he know, perhaps, that the US Federal Government had an eye on the unscrupulous and rampant venality in Guinea. A salient case in point was President Obama’s State of the Union Address of 2010, in which he declared pointedly:

« That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. (Applause.)  Always. (Applause.) »

Seven years after his heydays as a high-flying minister, and after Barack Obama’s public and generous stance, justice was served today with the sentencing of Mahmoud Thiam to seven years in a federal prison in America. Bien mal acquis ne profite pas… toujours !
I reproduce below the press release by the US Department of Justice.
Tierno S. Bah


A former Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea was sentenced today to seven years in prison, and three years of supervised release, for laundering bribes paid to him by executives of China Sonangol International Ltd. (China Sonangol) and China International Fund, SA (CIF).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.

Mahmoud Thiam, 50, of New York, New York, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote of the Southern District of New York. Thiam was convicted on May 3, after a seven-day trial of one count of transacting in criminally derived property and one count of money laundering.

“Mahmoud Thiam engaged in a corrupt scheme to benefit himself at the expense of the people of Guinea,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Corruption is a cancer on society that destabilizes institutions, inhibits fair and free competition, and imposes significant burdens on ordinary law-abiding people just trying to live their everyday lives. Today’s sentence sends a strong message to corrupt individuals like Thiam that if they attempt to use the U.S. financial system to hide their bribe money they will be investigated, held accountable, and punished.”

“As a unanimous jury found at trial, Thiam abused his position as Guinea’s Minister of Mines to take millions in bribes from a Chinese conglomerate, and then launder that money through the American financial system,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Enriching himself at the expense of one Africa’s poorest countries, Thiam used some of the Chinese bribe money to pay his children’s Manhattan private school tuition and to buy a $3.75 million estate in Dutchess County. Today’s sentence shows that if you send your crime proceeds to New York, whether from drug dealing, tax evasion or international bribery, you may very well find yourself at the front end of long federal prison term.”

“Thiam abused his official position, but the outcome shows that no one is above the law,” said Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson. “The FBI will not stand by while individuals attempt to live by their own rules and use the United States as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains. I would like to applaud the dedicated investigators and prosecutors who have worked to hold those who have committed these crimes accountable for their illegal actions.”

“Today’s sentencing should remind the public that no matter who you are, or how much money you have, you’re not immune from prosecution. The FBI will continue to use all resources at our disposal to uncover crimes of this nature and expose them for what they really are,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney

According to evidence presented at trial, China Sonangol, CIF and their subsidiaries signed a series of agreements with Guinea that gave them lucrative mining rights in Guinea. In exchange for bribes paid by executives of China Sonangol and CIF, Thiam used his position as Minister of Mines to influence the Guinean government’s decision to enter into those agreements while serving as Guinea’s Minister of Mines and Geology from 2009 to 2010. The evidence further showed that Thiam participated in a scheme to launder the bribe payments from 2009 to 2011, during which time China Sonangol and CIF paid him $8.5 million through a bank account in Hong Kong. Thiam then transferred approximately $3.9 million to bank accounts in the U.S. and used the money to pay for luxury goods and other expenses. To conceal the bribe payments, Thiam falsely claimed to banks in Hong Kong and the U.S. that he was employed as a consultant and that the money was income from the sale of land that he earned before he was a minister.

The trial evidence showed that the purpose of the bribes was to obtain substantial rights and interests in natural resources in Guinea, including the right to be the first and strategic shareholder with Guinea of a national mining company into which Guinea had to, among other things, transfer all of its stakes in various mining projects and future mining permits or concessions that the government decided to develop on its own. China Sonangol and CIF, through their subsidiaries, also obtained exclusive and valuable rights to conduct business operations in a broad range of sectors of the Guinean economy, including mining.

The FBI’s International Corruption Squads in New York City and Los Angeles investigated the case. Trial Attorney Lorinda Laryea of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elisha Kobre and Christopher DiMase of the Southern District of New York prosecuted the case. Fraud Section Assistant Chief Tarek Helou and Trial Attorney Sarah Edwards, and Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section Senior Trial Attorney Stephen Parker previously investigated the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

Slavery: Carson, Trump, and the Misuse of American History

Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary, Housing and Urban Development
Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary, Housing and Urban Development

I am re-posting here Jelani Cobb’s article (The New Yorker) written around the blunder of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, whereby he compared African slaves to immigrants. This is the same person who, out of the blue, claimed in 2013 that: “Obamacare is really … the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” The +20 million people who got insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) would beg to differ.
Anyhow, Dr. Carson will, most likely, not become president of the United States. The world will thus be probably a better place. Because despite his  acknowledged skills as a neurosurgeon, Carson is a mediocre student of history. Should he want to remedy that self-inflicted intellectual handicap, he would have to rethink slavery. And first of all, he must admit that the Slave Trade is “America’s Original Sin.” Consequently, it was not some migratory itch or urge that uprooted millions of Africans and dumped them on the shores of the “New World.” On the contrary, they were taken out and across the Atlantic Ocean in chains. Upon landing, and as Edward E. Baptist put it best, they toiled, from dawn to dusk and in sweat, tears and blood, for the “Making of American Capitalism.”

Tierno S. Bah


In referring to slaves as “immigrants,” Ben Carson followed a long-standing American tradition of eliding the ugliness that is part of the country’s history.

Earlier this week, Ben Carson, the somnolent surgeon dispatched to oversee the Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of the Trump Administration, created a stir when he referred to enslaved black people—stolen, trafficked, and sold into that status—as “immigrants” and spoke of their dreams for their children and grandchildren. In the ensuing hail of criticism, Carson doubled down, saying that it was possible for someone to be an involuntary immigrant. Carson’s defenses centered upon strict adherence to the definition of the word “immigrant” as a person who leaves one country to take up residence in another. This is roughly akin to arguing that it is technically possible to refer to a kidnapping victim as a “house guest,” presuming the latter term refers to a temporary visitor to one’s home. Carson had already displayed a propensity for gaffes during his maladroit Presidential candidacy, and it might be easy to dismiss his latest one as the least concerning element of having a neurosurgeon with no relevant experience in charge of housing policy were it not a stand-in for a broader set of concerns about the Trump Administration.

A week earlier, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, had described historically black colleges and universities as pioneers in school choice—a view that can only co-exist with reality if we airbrush segregation into a kind of level playing field in which ex-slaves opted to attend all-black institutions rather than being driven to them as a result of efforts to preserve the supposed sanctity of white ones. The Trump Administration is not alone in proffering this rosy view of American racial history. Last week, in a story about changes being made at Thomas Jefferson‘s estate, Monticello, the Washington Post referred to Sally Hemings, the enslaved black woman who bore several of Jefferson’s children, as his “mistress”—a term that implies far more autonomy and consent than is possible when a woman is a man’s legal property. Last fall, the textbook publisher McGraw-Hill faced criticism for a section of a history book that stated, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” The word “worker” typically carries the connotation of remuneration rather than lifelong forced labor and chattel slavery.

One part of the issue here is the eliding of the ugliness of the slave past in this country. This phenomenon is neither novel nor particularly surprising. The unwillingness to confront this narrative is tied not simply to the miasma of race but to something more subtle and, in the current atmosphere, more potentially treacherous: the reluctance to countenance anything that runs contrary to the habitual optimism and self-anointed sense of the exceptionalism of American life. It is this state-sanctioned sunniness from which the view of the present as a middle ground between an admirable past and a halcyon future springs. But the only way to sustain that sort of optimism is by not looking too closely at the past. And thus the past can serve only as an imperfect guide to the troubles of the present.

In his 1948 essay “The Gangster as Tragic Hero,” Robert Warshow wrote about the mid-century efforts to pressure studios to stop producing their profitable gangster movies. The concerns focussed partly upon the violence of the films but more directly upon the fear that these films offered a fundamentally pessimistic view of life and were therefore un-American. There is a neat through-line from those critics to Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” idealism to the shopworn rhetoric of nearly every aspirant to even local public office that the nation’s “best days are ahead of us.” We are largely adherents of the state religion of optimism—and not of a particularly mature version of it, either. This was part of the reason Donald Trump’s sermons of doom were seen as so discordant throughout last year’s campaign. He offered followers a diet of catastrophe, all of it looming immediately if not already under way. He told an entire nation, in the most transparently demagogic of his statements, that he was the only one who could save it from imminent peril. And he was nonetheless elected President of the United States.

Strangely enough, many of us opted to respond to Trump’s weapons-grade pessimism in the most optimistic way possible, conjuring best-case scenarios in which he would simply be a modern version of Richard Nixon, or perhaps of Andrew Jackson. But he is neither of these. Last summer, as his rallies tipped toward violence and the rhetoric seemed increasingly jarring, it was common to hear alarmed commentators speak of us all being in “uncharted waters.” This was naïve, and, often enough, self-serving. For many of us, particularly those who reckon with the history of race, the true fear was not that we were on some unmapped terrain but that we were passing landmarks that were disconcertingly familiar. In response to the increasingly authoritarian tones of the executive branch, we plumbed the history of Europe in the twentieth century for clues and turned to the writings of Czeslaw Milosz and George Orwell. We might well have turned to the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and James Baldwin for the more direct, domestic version of this question but looked abroad, at least in part, as a result of our tacit consensus that tragedy is a foreign locale. It has been selectively forgotten that traits of authoritarianism neatly overlap with traits of racism visible in the recent American past.

The habitual tendency to excise the most tragic elements of history creates a void in our collective understanding of what has happened in the past and, therefore, our understanding of the potential for tragedy in the present. In 1935, when Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t Happen Here,” it already was happening here, and had been since the end of Reconstruction. In 1942, the N.A.A.C.P. declared a “Double V” campaign—an attempt to defeat Fascism abroad and its domestic corollary of American racism.

Similarly, it was common in the days immediately following September 11th to hear it referred to as the nation’s first large-scale experience with terrorism—or at least the worst since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, staged by Timothy McVeigh. But the nation’s first anti-terrorism law was the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, designed to stall the attempts to terrorize emancipated slaves out of political participation. McVeigh’s bombing, which claimed the lives of a hundred and sixty-eight people, was not the worst act of terrorism in the United States at that point—it was not even the worst act of terrorism in the history of Oklahoma. Seventy-four years earlier, in what became known as the Tulsa Race Riot, the city’s black population was attacked and aerially bombed; at least three hundred people were killed. Such myopia thrives in the present and confounds the reasoning of the director of the FBI, James Comey, who refused to declare Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black congregants in a South Carolina church, done in hopes of sparking a race war, as an act of terrorism—a designation he did not withhold from Omar Mateen’s murderous actions in the Pulse night club, in Orlando.

The American capacity for tragedy is much broader and far more robust than Americans—most of us, anyway—recognize. Our sense of ourselves as exceptional, of our country as a place where we habitually avert the worst-case scenario, is therefore a profound liability in times like the present. The result is a failure to recognize the parameters of human behavior and, consequently, the signs of danger as they become apparent to others who are not crippled by such optimism. A belief that we are exempt from the true horrors of human behavior and the accompanying false sense of security have led to nearly risible responses to Trumpism.

It has become a cliché of each February to present the argument that “black history is American history,” yet that shopworn ideal has new relevance. A society with a fuller sense of history and its own capacity for tragedy would have spotted Trump’s zero-sum hustle from many miles in the distance. Without it, though, it’s easy to mistake the overblown tribulations he sold his followers for candor, not a con. The sense of history as a chart of increasing bounties enabled tremendous progress but has left Americans—most of us, anyway—uniquely unsuited to look at ourselves as we truly are and at history for what it is. Our failure to reckon with this past and the centrality of race within it has led us to broadly mistake the clichés of history for novelties of current events.

Jelani Cobb
The New Yorker

White Nationalism: Conversation, No Dialog

John Hope Franklin & Alfred A. Moss Jr. From Slavery to Freedom A History of African Americans
John Hope Franklin & Alfred A. Moss Jr. From Slavery to Freedom A History of African Americans. McGraw-Hill; 9th edition, 2010. 736 pages
President Barack Obama and Pr. John Hope Franklin
President Barack Obama and Pr. John Hope Franklin

From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans stands as the magisterial study of the American black experience by the late Pr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009) and Pr. Alfred A. Moss Jr. It was a revelation when it appeared in 1947. He followed up with several and many articles on Reconstruction, the martial culture of the antebellum South, runaway slaves and other subjects. Each one is a model of graceful prose, meticulously documented and free of bias or cant. The quality of Mr. Franklin’s writings made him the first black chairman of a history department at a predominantly white institution, Brooklyn College, in 1956. Later came appointments at the University of Chicago and Duke, and teaching assignments at Howard and Cambridge universities and elsewhere. Along the way he assisted Thurgood Marshall’s legal team in Brown v. Board of Education, served in government and accumulated more academic honors than we have space to mention. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 I am reacting here briefly to the transcript of the interview called “A Frank Conversation with a White Nationalist.” Although not not an empty talk the exchange reads like a polite but vague conversation. It fails to turn into an articulate and meaningful dialog. Its flaw lays in its weakness and even lack of historical perspective.

It is true that the journalist, Al Letson, and his interlocutor, Richard Spencer, met the day after the Republican candidate’s shocking Electoral College victory that made Donald Trump president-elect of the USA.
However, the atmosphere of the electoral upset, it was incumbent on them to acknowledge and explore better the complexities of such loaded topics as identity, race, ethnicity, nationalism, etc. Instead, they went for clichés, wrong assumptions, and somewhat shallow personal stories.

For instance, the two interlocutors agree —not surprisingly— on the contribution of Blacks in the making of American culture. Unfortunately, and due to its entertainment undertones —not to forget the association with sports—, this recognition is nothing but a stereotype. Because we know that real power is not in music and athletic achievement; it is in economics, finances, banking, science, and technology.
So what do I see as hits and misses by Al Letson and Richard Spencer respectively?

Capturing Fugitive Slaves in California, ca. 1856
Capturing Fugitive Slaves in California, ca. 1856

Al Letson

As an investigative journalist, Mr. Letson did not bring up the stronger arguments. Instead, he limited himself in reminding Richard Spencer of the Ku Klux-Klan and its terrorist lynching raids. Oddly, a word search of the interview show that Al fails to mention Slavery altogether. Yet, African bondage has been often and appropriately called America’s original sin, by President Obama. Is it merely coincidental that it was during his stewardship that such movies as 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Selma, etc., were produced and realized? Probably not. And it was obviously not serendipity but rather a fitting reunion when former President G.W. Bush joined Obama in the inauguration of the African-American Museum of History and Culture back in September The latter finished the project that the former had started.
Therefore, African-American media professionals like Al Letson ought to study as hard as they can African-American history, sociology, economy, political science, linguistics, etc. Such an activity nurtures the mind and helps—among other things—to debunk the myths of white supremacy. They  prepare and empower African-American scholars, journalists and artists as they seek to engage and refute the views of the likes of Richard Spencer.

The other Achille’s heel  in Al Letson argumentation is that he does not draw Richard Spencer’s attention that oppression engenders  resistance and rebellion. And that African-Americans stood up against slavery. They fought heroically to end it during the Civil War. They challenged Jim Crow. Under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and others, they defeated legal segregation in 1964 (Civil Rights Act) and in 1965 (Voting Rights Act). Incidentally, Richard Spencer refers to the 1964 legislation as Immigration. That’s a mistake.
The bottom line is that, through and through, Blacks were neither submissive nor passive. Strong personalities and fearless leaders emerged and blazed the trail of no-surrender, insurrection and entrepreneurship right in Antebellum America. Among them Toussaint-Louverture (Haiti), Abdul-Rahman (from my native Fuuta-Jalon), Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, and so many others.Their successors fought for the end of the abomination of slavery and to assert their humanity. And Whites and Jews showed solidarity all along. Quakers, intellectuals, politicians joined the anti-slavery movement, which peaked with John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.…

Richard Spencer

 Mr. Spencer’s intellectual handicap and judgemental predicaments are many. I list here some of them.

First, he suffers from the delusion that Whites, Blacks, Asians, etc. constitute separate races. Never mind that such a prejudice is deep-seated. Genomics has dispelled it  thoroughly. There is only one species, and that’s Humans, aka Homo sapiens? Even it still applies in culture, politics and in administration, it does not hold water in nature and in biological sciences.

Second, Richard has the illusion that Whites are homogeneous. But history belies that wrong premise. The elites, rulers and states of Germanic, Latin and Slavs peoples and countries have fought many a battle for political and   economic power, as well as for cultural dominance. Three examples:

  • Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812
  • His battle against Wellington in Waterloo (1815)
  • Hiter’s occupation of Poland, France, and Nazi partition of the latter in two territories during World War II
  • …………………………………………………

Richard Spencer does not seem to know that without African —slave and colonial—labor, neither Europe nor America would have gained such prosperity. He ought to read Edward Baptiste’s The Half Has Never Been Told. Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. And  Thomas Piketty. Capital in the 21st Century.

Third, Richard Spencer idealizes and idolizes the history of Europe. He is entitled to his opinion, but not to the facts. Before it spread its tentacles on the Southern Hemisphere of the Globe, capitalism began to wreak havoc at home. Again Richard should read the masterpieces of Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and other works that depict the miseries brought upon Europe by the rise of capitalism. Writing in the 20th century, historian Eric Hobsbawn has laid bare the lows and highs of the Industrial Revolution.

Fourth, for all its scientific and cultural achievements Europe was the matrix of the first (1914-1918) and the second (1939-1945) World Wars. The horrors of WWI led European artists, writers and poets to express their rejection of Western civilization and to seek inspiration elsewhere. Their quest was fulfilled by the so-called primitive arts of Africa and Oceania. Thus was born surrealism, dadaism. Then the Harlem Renaissance flourished. It carried on and elevated centuries of blacks’ struggled against racism and exclusion in the United States of America. Young African and Caribbean scholars in Paris followed suit with the Négritude movement, a trailblazer of the emancipation of Africa from colonial rule.… In essence, the Surrealism—Harlem Renaissance—Négritude chain underscores how  societies and people  are interrelated and interdependent, irrespective of skin color or “racial” background… And, in particular, it illustrates the ties that bind the intelligentsia, as well as literary, artistic and scientific trends and currents, in time and space.
That said, on January 20, 2017 Mr. Trump will have executive control of the world’s largest and most sophisticated nuclear arsenal. Should that lethal armory be—accidentally or willfully—unleashed and retaliated against, it will wipe human life off the planet, sparing no one, including the advocates of racial supremacy or ethnic superiority.

In the end, Al Letson does not introduce Richard Spencer adequately to the audience of his podcast. We are only told that he was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Texas, and that he likes mountain biking! That’s not enough to profile the carrier of a hostile ideology. The interview could have disclosed further information about the white nationalist’s education, profession, intellectual background and political connections.

But since Al Leston and Richard Spencer remain in touch, let’s hope to learn more about this supporter of president-elect Donald Trump .

Tierno S. Bah

Corruption minière : Afrique – USA

Robert Capers, Procureur fédéral, Eastern District de New York
Robert Capers, Procureur fédéral, Eastern District de New York

L‘enquête des autorités judiciaires américaines sur l’affaire de corruption minière en Afrique se poursuit. Elle réflète la détermination de l’administration Obama à appliquer la loi Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), promulgée en 1977. Cette législation interdit aux sociétés et aux dirigeants d’affaires américains de verser des paiments aux représentants de gouvernements étrangers afin d’obtenir — ou de conserver — des contrats de business. Il s’agit ici des transactions soupçonnées illicites de la société-écran, Africa Management Limited (AML), financée depuis 2007 par Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, une firme géante de Wall Street au capital de US$39 milliards.

Lire Conakry : plaque-tournante de l’Escroquerie internationale

Un intermédiaire de AML, le Gabonais Samuel Mebiame, a été arrêté et inculpé le 16 août dernier. Son dossier (No. 16-mj-752) relève de la compétence de Robert L. Capers, procureur fédéral, Eastern District de New York, et membre de l’unité d’intégrité publique.

Tokyo Sexwale, PDG de la société Mvelaphanda
Tokyo Sexwale, PDG de la société Mvelaphanda

Walter Hennig, président de la firme Palladino
Walter Hennig, président de la firme Palladino

Dans ce sens, le journal sud-africain Business Day a révélé hier que la justice américaine ne se contenterait plus d’infliger des amendes sévères aux contravenants de la loi FCPA. Elle viserait désormais à punir les cerveaux de l’affaire en les forçant à comparaître devant le juge et en réclamant des peines de prison. Selon Business Day, les personnalités  suivantes sont suspectes aux yeux des enquêteurs américains :

  • Tokyo Sexwale : ancien bagnard de Robben Island avec Nelson Mandela, politicien, membre de la direction de l’ANC et businessman, président de la firme Mvelaphanda (Afrique du Sud)
  • Walter Hennig, président de Palladino Holdings (Afrique du Sud)
  • Daniel Och, président directeur-général de Och-Ziff Capital Management (USA)
  • Alpha Condé, président de la République de Guinée
  • Des officiels du Niger et du Tchad

Lire (a) US seeks individual scalps in probe of Och-Ziff bribery in Africa (b) Cape Town tycoon linked to mining bribery (c) L’insondable Walter Hennig (d) High noon at the Guinea corral (e) Le coup de trop du groupe Steinmetz

Tierno S. Bah

Trump, Africa and Obama

The primary season precedes the general campaign for the 2016 presidential election. Launched February 1st with the Iowa caucus, it is now well under way. Votes have been cast in some 26 states, territories and the District of Colombia. Dozens of would-be presidents vie, in the shadow of the Democratic and Republican candidates, for the office of President of the United States of America. By the end of tomorrow, two or four peoples will emerge as the likely rivals for this year ballot.
On the Republican side, Donald J. Trump  has rewritten the rules of the republican campaign. His relatively strong following has forced  former Governor Jeb Bush out. For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders is the articulate messenger and challenger to Hillary Clinton’s aura of inevitability. Secretary Clinton is a political household name. She has, predictably, returned to the campaign trail where Barack Obama defeated her in 2007. While he was unknown to most Americans a few months ago, Bernie Sanders —the Independent Senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats on Capitol Hill—has launched a formidable movement. His message and oratory have reawakened the passion of millions of voters in a fashion reminiscent of Obama’s surge eight years ago.
The Chicagoan and the Vermonter share the ability to deliver an inspirational discourse that speaks to the hearts and minds of college students and young professionals.…
On May 11,  2011 Trump made an early exit from the 2012 race by releasing the following statement: “After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the presidency. This decision does not come easily or without regret, especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country.
However, Trump’s current political fortune seems to confirm his 2011 parting comment about his “ranking at the top.” Mr. Trump has repeatedly proven wrong the predictions of his eventual stumble and decline. He has risen to the top and stayed there ever since. His momentum continues to baffle the pundits, pollsters and the Republican establishment. The Party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan may well be forced to accept him as its nominee. Time will tell within 24 hours.
Here, I would like to draw the attention of the readers on three points:

  • Donald Trump, the African Union and the International Criminal Court
  • Should and can Africa be recolonized?
  • The connection between the “Birther” movement and Trump’s rise

When Trump echoes Tutu

Donald J. Trump, August 19, 2015
Donald J. Trump, August 19, 2015

Last month, Donald Trump condemned a proposed African withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. His words went viral on social media. Lumping all African presidents together, Mr.  Trump  strongly rejected the isolationist maneuver when he declared:

« When I saw them gang up against ICC yet they can’t even find an amicable solution for the ongoing quandary in Burundi, I thought to myself these people lack discipline and humane heart. They can’t lead by example. The only thing they are interested in is accumulating wealth from poor tax payers. Before they think of exiting from ICC, they should first restore peace in Burundi and other war-torn countries rather than gathering like hyenas with the aim of finishing the poor people. »

Anti-Trump protesters. Chicago, March 12, 2106. Many critics of Donald Trump consider the rally cancellation in Chicago a victory, but the candidate's divisive rhetoric and seeming encouragement of violence against protesters could spiral out of control in the months ahead. (Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty)
Anti-Trump protesters. Chicago, March 12, 2106. Many critics of Donald Trump consider the rally cancellation in Chicago a victory, but the candidate’s divisive rhetoric and seeming encouragement of violence against protesters could spiral out of control in the months ahead. (Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty)

Mr. Trump is entitled to his opinion. And in this case, despite the scornful tone, he is right to reject the move outlined recently at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. And those African regimes deserve to be denounced. the st he strenuously scold . Luckily, Africans didn’t have to wait for Donald’s reaction before registering their strong opposition to the anti-ICC initiative. In fact, it is gaining no traction and it could well be shelved for good. Already in 2014  someone with a higher moral authority than Mr. Trump can ever dream of, had rejected the idea. That’s what Rev. Desmond Tutu did when he wrote “In Africa Seeking a License To Kill.” The article denounces the suspicious mobiles and dreadful motivations of the proponents of the walk-out from the ICC. Consequently, Mr. Trump’s reply to the South African reporter merely echoes a better and previously view answer by the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Should and can Africa be recolonized?

In the same exchange, Donald Trump opined:

« It is shameful for African leaders to seek exit from ICC. In my view, these leaders want to have all the freedom to oppress their poor people without anyone asking them a question. I think there is no shortcut to maturity and in my view, Africa should be recolonized because Africans are still under slavery. Look at how those African leaders change constitutions in their favor so that they can be live presidents. They are all greedy and do not care about the common people. »

Mr. Trump’s message is bombastic and vain. Furthermore, it  conveys:

  • Implicit racism
  • An empty threat
  • An impossible proposition

1. Implicit racism

Mr. Trump’s provocative words harken back to the 19th century literature and propaganda of European imperialism and supremacist ideology. They conjure up Rudyard Kipling‘s racist White Man’s Burden slogan. They take us back to the so-called civilizing mission of the West. Unfortunately, the same world unleashed the hell and genocides of two planetary wars. And it is now forging ahead with globalization and its alarming Earth warming trend, with almost total disregard for the grave consequences entailed.

2. An empty threat

It is useless to brandish the specter of Africa’s recolonization.  It is an empty threat given that Europe  carried out only a token  decolonization of the continent in the 1960s. In reality, Europe  never relinquished its hegemonic stranglehold on Africa. To the contrary, they groomed and left behind surrogate regimes that —in collusion with the former foreign rulers— have fared worse that direct colonial domination. And even those strongmen and charismatic leaders who advocated Pan-Africanism did so with an explosive and self-defeating mixture of megalomania and repressive intolerance. Read Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Victor Du Bois’s The Death of Kwame Nkrumah, Procès Habré, une justice au nom de l’Afrique, inter alia. Also, visit the Camp Boiro Memorial

An impossible proposition

Last, but not least, a new colonization is so late as to be impossible. Times have changed. Donald Trump, himself, cannot bring back the “good” old days of straight colonialism and outright domination foreign domination. And even if Europe wanted to become again the Master of Africa, it can no longer afford it.  With huge power come enormous responsibilities. But Europe does not have the resources to rule both and itself and the so-called Third World. Hence, it barricades itself into a fortress that is both incapable and unwilling  to shelter in the millions of refugees —sailing from the former colonies— who are trying to reach its shores or to get a foothold onto its soil.

Obama and Trump

Notwithstanding his superficial foray into African affairs, Mr. Trump has a bigger fish to fry here in the USA. For the last five years, he has led the groundless suspicion that President Barack Obama was not born in America. Despite the release of official administrative birth certificate proving them wrong,  Donald and the members of the so-called Birther movement claim that the sitting president was born in Kenya. The false rumor has gained a life of its own. And it is feeding part of the primary electoral campaign of Mr. Trump.
Yesterday, Jamelle Bouie, journalist at Slate, published “How Trump Happened”, an insightful analysis of the interaction between the anti-Obama zealots and the rise of Donald Trump. The full text of the article can be found below.

Tierno S. Bah


How Trump Happened

It’s not just anger over jobs and immigration. White voters hope Trump will restore the racial hierarchy upended by Barack Obama.

Jamelle Bouie. Slate's chief political correspondent
Jamelle Bouie. Slate‘s chief political correspondent

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” goes the line attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Typically, you’ll find this pearl adorning a classroom or splashed across a motivational poster. But last month, on the eve of Super Tuesday—when a dozen states cast ballots for the Republican presidential nomination—you could find it on Donald Trump’s Instagram page, the caption to a photograph of a massive rally in Alabama the day before.

Perverse as it may seem for the belligerent real estate magnate to channel even apocryphal Gandhi wisdom, the line is apt. First, we did ignore him—as a buffoon who wouldn’t survive past the summer. Then, we laughed at him—as a buffoon who wouldn’t survive through fall. Eventually, Republicans began to fight him, terrified of his traction with voters. Now, he’s winning, with more votes and delegates than anyone left in the field. On the eve of another critical Tuesday slate of votes, Trump is on the verge of an even greater victory. Polls show him in command both in the smaller states that will award their delegates proportionally, and in the larger, winner-take-all prizes of Ohio and Florida. By Wednesday morning, Trump could be a stone’s throw from the Republican presidential nomination.

We’ve learned, by now, not to underestimate Donald Trump, but we’re still struggling to understand his rise. Why now? Why, when the United States is stronger and wealthier than it’s been since the Great Recession, are some voters suddenly receptive to nativist demagoguery? How is Trump—who has been described as a proto-fascist, if not an outright fascist—just a few steps away from leading the Grand Old Party?

For some on the left, Trump is the result of decades of divisive politics—the inevitable outcome of a Republican political strategy that stoked white racial resentment to win elections. “Trump’s campaign can best be understood not as an outlier but as the latest manifestation of the Southern Strategy, which the Republican Party has deployed for a half-century to shore up its support in the old Confederate states by appeals to racial resentment and white solidarity,” writes Jeet Heer in the New Republic.

For some on the right, Trump is the grassroots response to Republican elites who have abandoned their working-class voters to the whims of laissez-faire capitalism. “The Republican Party, and the conservative movement, offer next to nothing to working-class Trump supporters,” writes Michael Brendan Dougherty in the Week. “There are no obvious conservative policies that will generate the sort of growth needed to raise the standard of living for these working-class voters.”

These explanations aren’t mutually exclusive; each touches on an important element of the Trump phenomenon. The Republican Party does have a tradition of harnessing white racial resentment to win elections, from the infamous “welfare queen” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich labeling Barack Obama the “food stamp president” during the 2012 presidential election. GOP elites have failed to offer solutions to struggling working-class whites, who have suffered keenly from the collapse of the industrial economy. And it is true that rapid, disorienting economic and cultural change has led a substantial group of Americans to turn to someone who disdains feckless politicians and pledges to restore the country’s strength.

But none of these theories answer the question why now. Each of these forces has been in play for years. Wages for working-class Americans have long been stagnant, and the collapse of job opportunities for workers without a college degree was apparent in the 1990s, long before the Great Recession. What’s more, economic and social decline—as well as frustration with foreign competition, which Trump has channeled in his campaign—isn’t unique to white Americans. Millions of Americans—blacks and Latinos in particular—have faced declining economic prospects and social disintegration for years without turning to a demagogue like Trump.

Race plays a part in each of these analyses, but its role has not yet been central enough to our understanding of Trump’s rise. Not only does he lead a movement of almost exclusively disaffected whites, but he wins his strongest support in states and counties with the greatest amounts of racial polarization. Among white voters, higher levels of racial resentment have been shown to be associated with greater support for Trump.

All of which is to say that we’ve been missing the most important catalyst in Trump’s rise. What caused this fire to burn out of control? The answer, I think, is Barack Obama.

There have been some conservative writers who have tried to hang Trump’s success on the current president, pointing to his putatively extreme positions. But in most respects, Obama is a conventional politician—well within the center-left of the Democratic Party. Or at least, he’s governed in that mode, with an agenda that sits safely in the mainstream. Laws like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act weren’t impositions from the far left; they were built out of proposals from the right and left, passed by a majority of Congress that was elected to pursue solutions on health care and the economy. Barack Obama is many things, but conservative rhetoric aside, he’s no radical.

We can’t say the same for Obama as a political symbol, however. In a nation shaped and defined by a rigid racial hierarchy, his election was very much a radical event, in which a man from one of the nation’s lowest castes ascended to the summit of its political landscape. And he did so with heavy support from minorities: Asian Americans and Latinos were an important part of Obama’s coalition, and black Americans turned out at their highest numbers ever in 2008.

For liberal observers, this heralded a new, rising electorate, and—in theory—a durable majority. “The future in American politics belongs to the party that can win a more racially diverse, better educated, more metropolitan electorate,” wrote Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post after the 2008 election. “It belongs to Barack Obama’s Democrats.”

For millions of white Americans who weren’t attuned to growing diversity and cosmopolitanism, however, Obama was a shock, a figure who appeared out of nowhere to dominate the country’s political life. And with talk of an “emerging Democratic majority,” he presaged a time when their votes—which had elected George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan—would no longer matter. More than simply “change,” Obama’s election felt like an inversion. When coupled with the broad decline in incomes and living standards caused by the Great Recession, it seemed to signal the end of a hierarchy that had always placed white Americans at the top, delivering status even when it couldn’t give material benefits.

In a 2011 paper, Robin DiAngelo—a professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University—described a phenomenon she called “white fragility.” “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves,” she writes. “These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”

DiAngelo was describing private behavior in the context of workplace diversity training, but her diagnosis holds insight for politics. You can read the rise of Obama and the projected future of a majority nonwhite America as a racial stress that produced a reaction from a number of white Americans—and forced them into a defensive crouch. You can see the maneuvering DiAngelo describes in the persistent belief that Obama is a Muslim—as recently as last fall, 29 percent of Americans held this view, against all evidence. It is a way to mark Obama as “other” in a society where explicit anti-black prejudice is publicly unacceptable. Consistent with this racialized fear and anxiety is the degree to which white Americans now see “reverse discrimination” as a serious problem in national life. For its American Values Survey, the Public Religion Research Institute asks respondents whether “discrimination against whites is a significant problem.” In last year’s survey, 43 percent of Americans—including 60 percent of working-class whites—said discrimination against whites had become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

The anxieties DiAngelo describes, and the fears cataloged by the American Values Survey, have real political impact. In a 2014 study, political scientists Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson tried to measure “perceived status threat” from a shift in racial demographics, surveying how people responded when informed that California is now home to more blacks, Hispanics, and Asians than non-Hispanic whites. In other words, how do white Americans react to unrelated political questions when exposed to news of a “majority-minority” future? The results were clear. “Making the majority-minority shift in California salient led politically unaffiliated white Americans to lean more toward the Republican Party,” wrote Craig and Richeson. Likewise, “making the changing national racial demographics salient led white Americans (regardless of political party affiliation) to endorse both race-related and relatively race-neutral conservative policy positions more strongly.”

The Obama era didn’t herald a post-racial America as much as it did a racialized one, where millions of whites were hyper-aware of and newly anxious about their racial status. For example, during a Marco Rubio rally before the New Hampshire primary in February, I spoke to a voter who, in her way, gave voice to this hyper-awareness. “I think he’s divided this country in many ways,” said Lori, an older white woman, of Obama. “I know in a lot of places in America there’s a divide in color … like, when I walk up to someone in the stores”—she looked at me to emphasize what she means—“I feel that they’re wondering if I like them. … I didn’t feel that before. I was accepting of everyone, and I hate that he brought that.”

This isn’t the first time in our history that whites have worried about losing their preeminent status. In the early 20th century, massive Southern and Eastern European immigration, as well as Chinese immigration in the American West, fueled nativism and white racism, and helped lead to the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan. The revived Klan organized millions of white Americans in a movement against immigrants, blacks, and religious minorities like Catholics. This, along with a broader nativist movement, had an enormous impact on American politics—entire states, like Indiana, were controlled by Klan-backed politicians while national lawmakers passed harsh, restrictive immigration laws. Our current burst of nativism and racial anxiety is proving to be a similarly potent force.

“The election of the country’s first black president had the ironic upshot of opening the door for old-fashioned racism to influence partisan preferences after it was long thought to be a spent force in American politics,” wrote Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler in a 2013 paper titled “The Return of Old Fashioned Racism to White Americans’ Partisan Preferences in the Early Obama Era.” For Tesler, “old-fashioned racism” isn’t a rhetorical term; it refers to specific beliefs about the biological and cultural inferiority of black Americans. His work suggests that there are some white Americans who, in his words, have “concerns about the leadership of a president from a racial group whom they consider to be intellectually and socially inferior.”

Other research points to the degree to which Obama’s election seems to have exacerbated racial animus among white voters. In a paper titled “The Impact of Anti-Black Racism on Approval of Barack Obama’s Job Performance and on Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election,” a trio of researchers found a substantial increase in the number of voters with anti-black attitudes, which rose from 47.6 percent in 2008 to 50.9 percent in 2012. “The proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes,” they write, “was 32 percent among Democrats, 48 percent among independents, and 79 percent among Republicans.”

What does anti-black racism in the Obama era have to do with Donald Trump, who crashed the 2016 campaign with a wave of anti-Latino rhetoric?

Trump may have started this campaign by denigrating Latinos and Muslims, but his first appearance in the Obama era was in the context of anti-black racism. In 2011, Trump took the “birtherism” conspiracy—the belief that Obama is foreign-born and thus an illegitimate president—and turned it into a full-fledged movement. Even now, his supporters believe Obama is illegitimate—62 percent say he is a Muslim, and 61 percent that he was born in another country. I spoke to a voter who echoed this sort of othering anti-Obama rhetoric in Las Vegas, at a Trump event the day before the Nevada caucuses. “In my opinion, Obama is the most anti-American president that I have experienced. He bows down to every other country. He puts other countries before America,” explained Martin, a staunch backer of the real estate mogul.

More recently, anti-black racism has returned to the fore, with behavior that attracts those who would like to see the old racial hierarchy restored. He shares racist memes on Twitter and has built a symbiotic relationship with white nationalists, refusing a chance to repudiate former Klan leader David Duke during one interview and offering his son for an interview with a white-nationalist radio host. And in recent weeks, Trump supporters have attacked black protesters at his rallies. At an event in North Carolina, a protester was punched in the face by an audience member, while another yelled a racist slur. Afterwards, Trump condoned the behavior. “He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back,” he said, despite no evidence of any attack from the protester. “That’s what we need more of.”

In St. Louis, Missouri, a Trump rally collapsed into scuffles between supporters and opponents, with multiple arrests. At a Kentucky rally—the same day Trump promised to defend supporters in court if they fought with demonstrators—two protesters were assaulted by members of a white-supremacist group. On Friday evening, demonstrators in Chicago held a mass rally against an impending Trump event, forcing the campaign to cancel. Trump blamed the ensuing melee on “thugs.”

None of this is to discount the material facts behind Trump’s appeal to working-class whites. The collapse of the industrial economy in the wake of the Great Recession caused real devastation. The middle class has been losing ground for a long time, and there are few jobs for people without college degrees—or at least, few jobs that hold a path to mobility. Even in places where new factories have cropped up, unions are sparse and wages are low, following a race-to-the-bottom among the towns and cities that vie for the remaining manufacturing jobs. When economic desperation meets hopelessness—as we saw in the 1980s, when an earlier wave of de-industrialization ravaged the inner cities—the results are tragic.

The effects of these trends were highlighted in a widely analyzed study released last fall that showed rising mortality rates among middle- and working-class white Americans, the group that makes up Trump’s main body of support. Princeton University professor Anne Case and co-author Angus Deaton found that white working-class Americans are increasingly dying from suicide, alcohol abuse, and drugs. “In 1999,” writes Case for Quartz, “people in this group died from accidental drug and alcohol poisonings at four times the rate of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more. By 2013, they were dying at seven times the rate of their better-educated peers. In 2013, they also committed suicide at more than twice the rate of people with more education, and died from alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis at five times the rate of those with a college degree.”

These spikes in mortality are so large that, for whites aged 45 to 54, they’ve lowered overall life expectancy. Young whites, meanwhile, face rising rates of addiction and a corresponding increase in mortality.

Canvas a Trump event and you’ll meet people who have seen these changes up close. They are teachers, police officers, small-business owners, and city employees who hold the closest thing to middle-class jobs in the rural towns and older suburbs where Trump draws his most ardent support. In the Michigan primary, for example, Trump won most of his votes from voters with incomes less than $50,000; in New Hampshire, he dominated among voters making less than $100,000. Everywhere, in fact, Trump is winning Republicans with modest middle-class incomes.

These somewhat better-off Americans have seen their friends and family fall into dependency, whether to drugs or alcohol or welfare. They are both sympathetic to this plight—which is why Trump’s call for more help for veterans and seniors resonates with them—but also frustrated and angry. The country, and its leaders, made a promise: If you worked hard, you would get ahead. But that didn’t happen. Instead, for millions of Americans, it was the reverse: They worked hard and fell behind. They’re afraid, for themselves and for their children. Trump speaks for them. “What do we all want?” Trump asked at a rally on the eve of the Nevada caucus. “We want security. We want a strong country.” Those who feel insecurity most acutely have turned out to back the real estate mogul en masse.

With that said, perceptions of race inform their embrace of Trump as well. In the recent past, holding the favored spot in our racial hierarchy brought benefits. As historian and political scientist Ira Katznelson details in When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, being white was traditionally a pathway to middle-class security, the key that won access to vital mortgage and education programs, as the federal government worked to build a white middle-class in the middle part of the 20th century. Even after the civil rights movement and the end of formal discrimination against black Americans, it was still true that being white and middle-class offered protection from the worst of our economy’s ravages. Drugs, ghettos, and dependency existed among whites in pockets of the country, but they were popularly understood as black and Latino problems, not white ones. Now, that isn’t true. Now, middle-class whites face addiction and dependence, which adds a racial element to economic anxiety, as the security provided by whiteness no longer exists for many Americans.

There are objections to this narrative. It’s possible, for example, that Obama’s decision to push forward with liberal policies and to galvanize a liberal base produced an inevitable partisan backlash, of which Trump is part. Had Obama governed more moderately, had he tried to find a space in his coalition for white working-class voters, then Trumpism might have stayed in the deep.

But this analysis ignores the extent to which Trump reflects specific choices by Republican and conservative elites. From indulging anti-Obama conspiracy theories to attacking him as an enemy of the United States, conservatives chose to nurture resentment and anxiety and distill it into something potent. You can draw a direct line to the rise of Trump from the racial hysteria of talk radio—where figures like Rush Limbaugh, a Trump booster, warned that Obama would turn the world upside down. “The days of [minorities] not having any power are over and they are angry,” said Limbaugh to his audience. “They want to use their power as a means of retribution.”

It also ignores the degree to which these voters likely would have found this hypothetical partnership inimical to their conception of their interests. Even if Obama had reached out, they would be mere partners in a larger coalition, when what they want is to be its driving force. Trump speaks to that desire, signaling—in ways subtle and otherwise—that he plans to “Make America Great Again” by making the white American worker the center of his universe.

Throughout our history, a substantial minority of whites has responded to America’s always-shifting racial and economic terrain with a primal fear of being dominated, of finding themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy. It’s one of the strongest forces in American life, and politicians and demagogues of many partisan stripes channeled it long before Donald Trump; it’s so strong that researchers have found a direct and robust connection between a given county’s proportion of enslaved people before emancipation and its present-day Republican vote share. The more slaves held in a given area, the more Republican votes.

The good news is that movements like Trump’s tend to fade away. The bad news is that, even in defeat, they are influential. One antecedent to Trump—Alabama Gov. George Wallace—never won a national party nomination. But he had massive impact on the direction of national politics, giving Richard Nixon raw materials for his “Southern Strategy” of racial resentment that would shape and define American politics for the next four decades.

For Americans opposed to Trump, it’s tempting to believe that his base is a shrinking part of America; that these are the death throes of racial reaction. Eventually, goes the thinking, they’ll fade from view too.

That is wishful thinking. America is a diverse country. But it’s still a predominantly white one, where a Trumpist movement can still encompass millions of voters. And “eventually” might be a while. In the space between now and then, Trumpism—the potent mix of open prejudice, nationalist aggression, and heterodox economic policy—could thrive. In fact, it likely will, since the trends that produced Trump—a brittle economy, an ailing white working-class, an insecure white middle-class, a rising nonwhite population, political gridlock, and growing minority political power—are ongoing.

Given the more than uphill climb he would face in a general election, Trump the person might have an expiration date. But Trumpism will enter the firmament of modern politics, a powerful current that will shape the future of the Republican Party, and the Democratic one too. Trump came on the stage as a clown. But whenever he leaves, he’ll do it as a new icon of a familiar movement in American life.

Jamelle Bouie